Spells & Magic

Power Points

Arcane characters energize their powers with “Power Points.” As soon as you buy an Arcane Background Edge, your hero gets the listed number of Power Points. Using a power requires that you spend a number of these points. Some powers allow you to pay additional points for better effects, and some allow you to maintain the effect by spending Power Points each round. Heroes recover 1 Power Point per hour. Certain environmental conditions may change this rate however. A wizard in the deadlands may find it impossible to find any sort of plant life, or a sun cleric deep underground would not be able to recharge his power points without direct sunlight.

Starting Powers

Arcane characters start with a number of powers dictated by their particular Arcane Background. See the Arcane Background list for specifics.

Learning New Powers

An arcane character can learn a new power by selecting the New Power Edge. As soon as he levels up and chooses this Edge, he can instantly begin using whichever power he chooses. This is represented in different ways for each type of Arcane Background. Templars are granted a new power by their sorcerer-king, druids learn a new power from the spirit of the land, defilers or preservers research a new spell for their spellbook in secret, psionicists unlock a new region of their own mind, and clerics receive a new boon from their elemental lord.

Using Powers

As an action, a character may use a single power by declaring the power he’s using, spending the desired number of Power Points, and making an arcane skill roll. If the roll is failed, there’s no effect but the Power Points are lost. If successful, consult the particular power to determine the results. Some powers have variable effects depending on how many Power Points are used to cast them. The player must spend the desired Power Points before rolling his character’s arcane skill to see if he’s successful.

Maintaining Powers

Some powers may be maintained, as listed in the power’s Duration description. This is a free action. The number following the duration is the cost in Power Points to keep the power going. No new skill roll is needed to maintain a power.

For each power currently being maintained, the caster suffers a -1 to future arcane skill rolls (but not other Trait tests). A wizard maintaining armor and charm, for example, suffers a -2 penalty to his Spellcasting rolls until he allows those powers to lapse. He does not suffer penalties to his Fighting (or other) rolls while these spells are being maintained.


A character who is actively maintaining a power may be disrupted if he suffers damage. To maintain concentration for all of his powers, the hero makes one opposed arcane skill roll versus the damage he suffered. If his roll is higher, he maintains all of his spells. If he fails, he instantly drops all of his powers after the attack that caused the disruption is resolved.

A character who is Shaken by nondamaging means (such as a Test of Wills) must make a simple Smarts roll to maintain his powers.

Arcane Backgrounds

Below are the different types of Arcane Backgrounds. Each type describes the Arcane Skill a character with that background uses, his starting Power Points, the number of powers he starts play with, and any potential drawbacks to the power (such as Backlash or Malfunctions).

Arcane Background (Magic)

Requirements: Novice, Human, Elf, Half-elf
Arcane Skill: Spellcasting (Smarts)
Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 3
Preservers and defilers are collectively knows as wizards. Wizards draw on the energy of the surrounding land and plantlife to fuel their eldritch powers. Wizards have a pool of Power Points to draw upon when they cast spells. These Power Points are an abstraction of the energy the wizard can draw from the earth. If a preserver chooses to defile the land, turning it to ash in a radius around himself equal to the Power Points of the spell being cast, he gains a +2 bonus on his Spellcasting roll. Each time a preserver defiles, he must make a Spirit check or become a defiler (gaining the defiler Hindrance).

Wizard characters must also pay close attention to their surroundings when casting spells, as the terrain's vegetation modifies how many Power Points a spell costs to cast in that terrain. Spells cast while in lush terrain (forests, large gardens, parks) cost 2 less Power Points that normal (minimum 0); abundant terrain (verdant belts, grasslands, mud flats) costs 1 Power Point less than normal (minimum 0); fertile terrain (oases, scrub plains) costs the normal amount; infertile terrain (stony barrens, rocky badlands, bare mountains) costs 1 Power Point more than normal; barren terrain (boulder fields, sandy wastes, salt flats) costs 2 Power Points more than normal.

  • Backlash: When a wizard rolls a 1 on his Spellcasting die (regardless of his Wild Die), he is automatically Shaken. This can cause a wound. This represents the land striking back at the wizard who attempted to tap it's power.

Arcane Background (Miracles)

Requirements: Novice, (Druids must be Human, Half-elf, Halfling, Mul, or Thri-kreen; Templars must be Human, Dwarf, Elf, or Half-Elf)
Arcane Skill: Faith (Spirit)
Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 2
Those who draw on miracles are priestly types or elemental champions. Their power comes from an elemental lord (clerics), spirit of the land (druids), or sorcerer-king (templars). Their powers are usually invoked with a few words of prayer or by performing established rituals. Clerics and templars are also generally required to have a holy symbol to focus their prayers with.

  • Protector: Those who cast miracles are champions of their particular religions. Clerics make pacts with the elmental powers to increase the influence of their chosen element on Athas. Druids vow to protect the land itself, fight defilers and the sorcerer-kings, and obey all other tenets of their particular spirit of the land. Templars typically vow to defeat those who oppose their sorcerer-king, or simply to uphold the law within their city-state. The player and Game Master should come up with a simple list of what is important to the character’s religion and use this as a guide. Champions who violate their beliefs are temporarily or permanently forsaken by their chosen patron. Minor sins give the character a -2 to his Faith rolls for one week. Major sins rob him of all divine powers for one week. Mortal sins cause the character to be forsaken until the penitent hero completes some great quest or task of atonement to regain his lost powers.

Arcane Background (Psionics)

Requirements: Novice
Arcane Skill: Psionics (Smarts)
Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 3
Psionicists have discovered how to tap into their own psychic powers. They can manipulate matter, create fire, or control their own bodies with but a thought. Psionics are everywhere on Athas, as almost every person, plant, or animal has at least some psionic potential.

  • Brainburn: When a psionic character rolls a 1 on his Psionics die (regardless of his Wild Die), he is automatically Shaken. On a critical failure, the character lets out a psychic scream that causes him to be Shaken along with all allies in a Large Burst Template who fail a Spirit roll. This can cause a wound.
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